Investigation into plane collisions on taxiways

May 2, 2013 3:11:38 PM PDT
An investigation is underway into why two passenger planes collided at Newark Airport.

The wing of one plane clipped the tail of another plane while taxiing down the runway.

No one was hurt.

Recently, there have been a string of similar accidents.

So why isn't the simple technology available to prevent these accidents being used?

Part of the reason is cost. The FAA says these taxiway incursions occur too infrequently to warrant the expense of cameras or warning systems.

But some warn aviation's luck with these minor collisions may run out if something isn't done.

When the wide-body Scandinavian jetliner clipped the tail of a much smaller plane during Newark Airport's congested evening rush, no one was injured but the damage was substantial.

"You got some serious tail damage, his tail is totaled," an air traffic controller said.

Hours later, another ground incident occurred in Chicago when two commercial jets clipped wings. Again, there were no injuries but a much more serious taxiway collision did occur two years ago at JFK: a taxiing airbus 380 nearly knocked over a passenger-filled regional jet.

Seven months ago, The National Transportation Safety Board said these cases "highlight the need for an anti-collision aid such as a camera system". Citing the lack of injuries and deaths, The FAA rejected that recommendation.

"I do think to brush it under the rug and not look at it and study it is probably a mistake," said Brian Alexander, Pilot and Aviation attorney.

Alexander, an Aviation Attorney at Kreindler and Kreindler, says with airports becoming more congested and airplanes getting bigger the problem is not going away.

"There's little doubt that this will be an issue that occurs more frequently and has greater potential for more substantial damage," Alexander said.

A check of the FAA database shows in the last 10 years, at least 30 taxiway incursions nationwide in which a plane was substantially damaged when struck by another plane, in many cases causing minor injuries, including one at LaGuardia Airport.

Experts say better training in cockpit management and pilot situational awareness would help, but technology, perhaps cameras or a warning system, may also be necessary.

"As the aircraft get bigger more difficult to taxi, you're more apt to hit something because you require a greater turning radius," Alexander said.

Of those 30 taxiway collisions since 2002, six of them have occurred at New York's major airports.

None resulted in serious injuries, but did cause millions of dollars in damage.


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